We have demonstrated label-free optical detection of viral nucleoprotein binding to a polyvalent anti-influenza aptamer by monitoring the surface-enhanced Raman (SERS) spectra of the aptamer-nucleoprotein complex. The SERS spectra demonstrated that selective binding of the aptamer-nucleoprotein complex could be differentiated from that of the aptamer alone based solely on the direct spectral signature for the aptamer-nucleoprotein complex. Multivariate statistical methods, including principal components analysis, hierarchical clustering, and partial least squares, were used to confirm statistically significant differences between the spectra of the aptamer-nucleoprotein complex and the spectra of the unbound aptamer. Two separate negative controls were used to evaluate the specificity of binding of the viral nucleoproteins to this aptamer. In both cases, no spectral changes were observed that showed protein binding to the control surfaces, indicating a high degree of specificity for the binding of influenza viral nucleoproteins only to the influenza-specific aptamer. Statistical analysis of the spectra supports this interpretation. AFM images demonstrate morphological changes consistent with formation of the influenza aptamer-nucleoprotein complex. These results provide the first evidence for the use of aptamer-modified SERS substrates as diagnostic tools for influenza virus detection in a complex biological matrix. © 2012 American Chemical Society.